In Theory: Can Microsoft Use The Power of Cloud To Further Amp Up Xbox One Scorpio’s Technical Prowess?

Between ever-increasing internet connectivity and the breakdown of the console upgrade cycle, cloud gaming is likely to make it big sooner than we’d expected.

Posted By | On 01st, Oct. 2016 Under Article, Graphics Analysis


loud, the final frontier. Over the past few years, we’ve encountered plenty of innovation and advancement in terms of how we engage with games. While motion controls are still not exactly mainstream, the Wii popularized that concept ten years ago, and today’s Steam Controller features gyro aim that’s far from gimmicky. VR’s finally become something of a mainstream proposition. While we’re yet to see the Rift and Vive go the way of the 90’s VR craze, significant content is being produced for a change. 4K and HDR are taking us a step closer to that somewhat far-off point of time when the monitor reaches its logical endpoint, as a window into the outside that’s indistinguishable from the real thing.

Sony and Microsoft’s decision to out the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio has completely changed the way we look at gaming consoles. The hardware is no longer fixed: as with mobile, the new model centres on iteration. The downside to this is that there is no longer any guarantee against your hardware becoming obsolete: your console no longer becomes that comfortable 5-year investment you’d expected it to be. Games are no longer tied down to platforms because the platforms themselves are no longer fixed. Take Microsoft’s repositioning of the Xbox brand, for example.

A decade ago, an Xbox was an Xbox: a (physical) Microsoft-designed home console box that you’d set in your living room and hook up to your TV. There was no talk about phones or Crossplay or Continuum. An Xbox was an Xbox, simple as that. But what does the cloud mean for the Xbox? Today, Xbox is nearly everything it possibly could be apart from the Xbox One, and this leads us to an interesting proposition: What if we were to fully de-tether the brand from the platform? What if Xbox meant games which didn’t have to run on a fixed hardware platform like the Xbox One or Project Scorpio? What if you could play Halo 5 on your phone, on the way to work? Cloud gaming is the logical next step forward.

The upsides are obvious: AAA games have always been constrained by the need to run on fixed hardware—namely whatever consoles are current at that point of time. The seventh gen gave us some remarkable titles, but at the end of the day, seventh gen games had to be able to run respectably on GPUs that were within the performance profile of Intel’s HD 4000 iGPU. The infamous spate of “downgrades” in eighth-gen titles, from Watch Dogs to The Witcher 3, to The Division only serves to underline this point: when you’re dealing with fixed hardware you have a (very) limited rendering budget. In the case of the Xbox One, this limitation prevents the console from running most AAA games acceptably at 1080p.

Compromise is the only way to make a game that will work on the fixed hardware that most of your customer base will be on. Cloud streaming solutions, on the other hand, augment or get rid of the weakest link—fixed hardware. Instead of individual users with relatively weak local hardware, firms with the capital can invest in massive server grids with virtually unlimited amounts of rendering power on tap and offer games as a subscription service—something they’d make far more money off of in the long term than a fixed hardware purchase every couple of years.

This is a market that Nvidia’s been trying to tap into for quite some time now with their Geforce Now service running on Nvidia GRID servers. In the “console” space (although that word starts to lose meaning when the brand’s decoupled from hardware), Sony’s PlayStation Now service is a strong portent of what’s to come next: while, currently, only PS3 titles are on offer, PlayStation Now users have access to over 400 titles at $20 a month. All that’s needed is hardware capable of streaming HD video—anything from a smartphone on up, and this is what’s truly remarkable about the cloud: your laptop becomes a PS3.  Your phone becomes a PS3.  Could this model work for Microsoft? The Xbox 360 has a  great catalogue of exclusives: support for backwards compatibility on the Xbox One goes to show that there is a market for people who want to continue exploring seventh-gen titles. But a cloud-enabled service would mean that any piece of hardware you own–and not just the Xbox One or Scorpio could run a wide selection of titles.

While an Xbox cloud-streaming service is pure speculation, the innovative physics implementation in Crackdown 3, leveraging the power of Microsoft’s Azure servers is a strong signal that Redmond isn’t standing idle. Microsoft’s gambit with the Xbox brand, however, seems to be broader in reach than just game streaming. With Xbox Crossplay, UWP (Universal Windows Apps), and Continuum, Microsoft is already offering a consistent, platform-agnostic Windows experience. With Project Scorpio, Microsoft appears to be taking somewhat of a conservative stance: Based on specs, this is a very powerful local system, built from the ground up to power high-quality local experiences. It’s quite likely to be large and noisy.

Microsoft’s cageyness about cloud gaming, at least as far as the Scorpio is concerned is understandable: Cloud gaming require access to unlimited,high-bandwidth internet connectivity, and even today, that’s somewhat of a rarity. But considering the maturity of their Azure platform, and the exciting partnership between Nvidia and Microsoft to leverage Nvidia GRID graphics tech, a cloud-enabled Xbox streaming service is something Microsoft could make happen whenever it needs to. Although Crackdown 3 is the only game to do so, any Xbox game can take advantage of Azure to offload graphics, physics, AI, and more. Microsoft’s approach, dubbed Kahawai, uses “collaborative rendering” to split the work between the local hardware and the cloud server. Because some of the rendering is being locally, this drastically cuts down on bandwidth requirements.

While Kahawai is currently deployed for mobile, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it in action in Xbox games going ahead. This could have major implications for Xbox titles further down the line. With both Sony and Microsoft moving away from the conventional console cycle, it may well be possible that the Xbox Scorpio is the last or second-to-last Microsoft console. What would a post-Xbox console world look like? We see it as something akin to what Microsoft has done with “Windows as a service.” Windows 10 is iterative, with each build adding or removing features on the basis of feedback.

Based on preliminary specs, the Scorpio is reasonably powerful for a 2017 machine. While there may be a further hardware iteration, we think that gradual cloud integration is the path Xbox will take: Crackdown 3 is the first step in that direction, making up for the Xbox One’s CPU deficit by offloading physics calculations to the cloud. As titles start to push the limits of what the Scorpio can do at 4K, upscaling would definitely be an option, but if developers further tap into Azure–graphics rendering may also be progressively offloaded to the cloud, and at a point where it becomes commercially viable, we’d likely see that fabled Xbox cloud streaming service.

What’s your take on the future of cloud gaming? Let us know!

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  • Can’t wait!! 🙂

    • efnet

      Neither can i, im extremely excited to hear some official news about it from ms

    • Right? Crackdown already looked amazing with the normal XB1. I can’t even imagine how it would explode with Scorpio’s power…

    • efnet

      I thought it did anyway, man I’m just ready to see what the console looks like …
      We got to link up someday on Xbox live

    • My only assumption is it will have an internal power supply and a 4K Blu Ray Player, plus I think it will be closer to the original XB1 in size b/c of the fan to cool the 6TF. The PS4Pro has a huge box also compared to the PS4.

      My XBL is: jablocanas – what’s yours? I don’t play many online games though, I picked up Battlefield 1 and Titanfall though b/c I’m pretty good at both. I get thrashed at Halo and CoD, lol…

    • efnet

      Xbl: imsochill osg
      You already know I got pretty much everything .
      As far as the Scorpio go though I’m just waiting for them to show it .

    • Cool, added!

      Yeah, same here, hopefully it will look nice.

    • Hey dude, q for ya: do you have an elite controller? Is it worth the price? Got a coupon from Best Buy for rewards and trying to find out if it’s really worth it, or just expensive

    • efnet

      Yea I do have one.
      Its worth it if you’re a competitive gamer, the controller give you the options of remapping your crucial buttons and options for taller or shorter thumb sticks which are great for shooters.
      I woil

    • I’m not really competitive but I do like to win. I like the idea of triggers being easier to use b/c you’re not pressing all the way down. I also like the quality aspect as I’ve gone through 4 xb1 controllers this gen already :/ luckily the last 3 were all returnable to MSFT via warranty but it’s been borderline ridiculous…

    • Thanks also!

  • crazy_black_man-

    The cloud again? Oh gee whiz. The hilariousness continuous at Gamingbolt.

    • kma99

      You must hit refresh on your smart phone. I swear you just wait for every article to post

    • crazy_black_man-

      You must hit the “hard reset” on your Xbox One. I swear you’re an idiot to even come here at all

    • kma99

      I swear most people have better things to do in a days time other than troll web sites all dat. You wouldn’t know about that would you? And stop pretending to be a black guy you nutcase.

    • crazy_black_man-

      I swear most people have better things to do in a days time other than troll web sites complaining about what others post all day. You wouldn’t know about that would you? And stop pretending you’re not an idiot.

    • kma99

      White guy pretending to be black. Epitome of idiot. might help with that loneliness

    • crazy_black_man-

      How did my race ever become a part of this discussion on the cloud helping to boost the power of Scorpio? You have no way of verifying my ethnicity, or how it affects my criticisms of the content in this article, but I on the other hand, CAN confirm beyond all doubt that it is an indisputable fact that, yes,… YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

    • kma99

      How did you acting like a clown benefit this article. A smart man would somply ignore something he didnt like or read it and keep it moving if he cant add anything of value to it. Idiots sit on their computer all day and complain like a teenage girl about trivial stuff. That seems to be you moniker so i assume you’re the idiot. P.S. you’re still not black

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL. I’m getting you. It’s fairly obvious.

      “A smart man would somply ignore something he didnt like or read it and keep it moving”.

      The truth about what I say is getting under your skin. The evidence of that truth?

      “A smart man would somply ignore something he didnt like or read it and keep it moving”.

      You’re not a smart man are you?

      The evidence?

      You’re sitting continuously crying like a little b i t c h about what an actual smart man is saying about all this “power of the cloud” nonsense. Hilariousness! I love it!

    • kma99

      Microsoft is getting to you lol. You’re on here 24/7 complaining. I simply laugh at an idiot who can’t simply walk away. Ps you’re still not black

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL. Classic cop out reply. The agony of defeat. I’m sure you’re used to by now.

    • kma99

      No cop out. Any Microsoft article you are thr first to post, that’s facts. Ps you’re still not black

    • crazy_black_man-

      Just out of curiosity. Had you commented on this article before I did, what would you have said? I mean, are you sure you don’t come to these articles just to see me? Would you like me to send you a naked picture of my hairy black a s s so you can wake up first thing in the morning and kiss it everyday? I can do that if you’d like.

    • kma99

      I wouldn’t have commented because i dont see the relevance intil we actual get some proof that Microsoft can pull it off. If and when they get proven to be liars or people of their word then i woule feel thr need to comment not complain. You on thr other hand get all in your hemotions anytime Microsoft is mentioned. Ps you’re still not black

    • crazy_black_man-

      You’re saying they haven’t proven anything to you, so you won’t connent, but yet MY opinion still offends you because I did comment. I may not be able to prove my ethnicity or why it matters in Gamingbolt, but you’re STILL continuously proving how much of an idiot you are, every time you show up here.

    • kma99

      Your opinion is simply your opinion and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is you always assert your negative opinion on anything Microsoft and thats borderline stupidity. You cant seem to leave well enough alone. If this was consistent between sony and Microsoft then i would simply assume u just hated life but u dont u praise one and down the other.
      I dont hate or love either company i support them both the same even though im partial to sega.

    • crazy_black_man-

      Dude, I couldn’t give a sh*t about who you love and who you hate, and you should be adult enough to do the same about others. Go to a Sony article for the next six months and show all the Sony hate you want, and watch me NOT b i t c h and complain about your valid opinion as a consumer to feel the way you do, and try to silence that opinion from being heard. These are consumer products just like any other consumer product. Why are you crying like a b i t c h about someone else’s right to state their opinion on a consumer product, fanboy?

    • kma99

      What would be the point in doing that? To act as childish as you are now, that’s stupid. Like i said earlier why dont u go find a relationship to occupy your time and stop crying on message boards. Ps you’re still not black

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL. Still crying like a b i t c h. What’s stupid and childish is you still crying like a b i t c h.

    • kma99

      Nothing to cry over. Im not mad at Microsoft but u r lol.

    • crazy_black_man-

      Oh, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind how mad you are. That fact that you’ve just spent the afternoon crying like a b i t c h just proves how mad you are. Its good to know I can control your emotions like this. Thanks for letting me in. Hilariousness!

    • kma99

      Believe what you want but your emotional right now. Lol time to change your pads i presume. There is a singer named Carl Thomas who has a song called emotional that might help relax that fragile brain of yours.

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL. Wow. That comment was very telling. Is that what you listen to when your this upset? How sad.

      Listen son, in all seriousness, it’s just videogames. Please don’t hurt yourself today. I really wouldn’t want that for you. Ok? Can you promise me that?

    • kma99

      No its telling because im telling you how to resolve this anger issue u have with Microsoft. They have you raging even on holidays lol.

    • crazy_black_man-

      Ok, we’ll go with that narrative. I’m ok with that. Im more concerned about you right now. I should show more sensitivity and I’ll have to work on that. You kids are under a lot of stress these days, confused about what gender bathroom to use and all that kinda stuff that my generation never had to deal with. I’m sorry little guy.

    • kma99

      Dont be concerned with me im mentally stable. Matter of fact i will come back to make you rage later, i have real life stuff to do. You will probably start responding to yourself and upvoting your comments again.

    • crazy_black_man-

      Ok son. That’s good to hear. I’m so relieved. Please have a fun day today with your two dads.

    • kma99

      2 dads, aint you the comedian. Ps they both are still blacker than you.

    • crazy_black_man-

      LOL. Good return!

    • sazse007

      He is probably paid to do this.

    • Learned Handgun

      I seriously hope he is. Kma999 is right. This guy literally posts negative stuff on every Xbox article, has multiple accounts to do so, and pretends to be different people. It had to be either paid or loneliness turned mental disorder

    • Mike E.

      LOL… no doubt. I had a good laugh reading this. Anyone interested in a real gaming experience won’t touch streaming services. Can you say input latency? Sheesh…

    • Michael

      Ponyisms…lol….reminds me of that thing they called cell that sony had to sell…lol

    • bewareofZ

      You mean the chip that helped the PS3 turn a 10 million sales deficit into a win. lol

  • efnet

    1 more year…
    The wait will be a long one.

  • Riggybro

    It doesn’t matter PSnow OR MS cloud… both signal the same thing the end of an oversized plastic box under your TV or monitor.

    By all means, please buy the latest (and future) version of XB and PS. They want your money and are not going to tell you otherwise. But just get ready for a future of streaming and subscription. It’s coming…

  • Mr Xrat

    Is it 2013 again?

    “Buy an Xbone to watch movies!”
    “Power of the cloud will fix the Xbox’s deficiencies!”
    “Just wait for E3/the holidays!”

    • Sandrasloveland4

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !dh372f:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash652ShopActionGetPay$97Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!dh372f:….,…..

  • BelAirBoss

    Of course they can….just look at how they did that with the xbox one. The xbox one is now five times as powerful as when it launched. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Scorpio was used as a supercomputer to manage calculations on the formation of the Universe, perhaps even discovering for the first time proof of the multiverse theory. The Scorpio will be the most powerful computational device on the planet thanks to the cloud. This author is a genius.

  • wombat

    “The Cloud”

    lol, you guys.

  • PrideLand

    I hate subscriptions. If you do the simple math to find out how much you pay per month, it is a horrible cost model for the consumer. Especially since a lot of subscription based services do not have discount options for families. See MS Groove for example; no family option.

  • Graeme Willy

    Let’s not “let’s go down this road…” again.

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